Art Teachers Answer 1 Question • Frustration

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Welcome to the first post in my series dedicated to celebrating art teachers’ thoughts and ideas. I will feature answers to one question at a time, so we can get a good focus on individual topics. I’m really excited to get into their brains a little bit, and I hope you are, too!

(I was thrilled with the responses I got from my first question, not knowing if I would get any responses at all! I wanted to include everyone’s full answers, and I know this makes for a long post, so I had to cut out bits of answers. I’ve bolded some of my favorite parts from their answers if you’re pressed for time, otherwise, happy reading!) 

First question: How do you encourage kids when they get super-frustrated with a project?


Cynthia Grimm • My classroom theme is PERSIST…. I have it in huge colorful letters on my wall. If they are frustrated, we try to come up with another approach they can use to “solve the problem” they’re having. Most of the time, they’re frustrated because they expect a quick solution and a “perfect” product. If they just slow down and think things through creatively, they usually enjoy it, and their finished piece, a lot more. And if not, there’s always another project….. 😉

Stacey Jackson • Usually the frustration is born out of a perceived mistake or that their work is not turning out as they pictured in their heads. Instead of trying to get rid of the “mistake”, I ask them to USE it to change their art and set it a part from everyone else’s. I even have a poem I wrote that I often use in my class:

“If you make a mistake, it’s all in your head. Erasers won’t fix it, your brain should instead. Don’t fret or get mad or let out a shout; solving this problem is what it’s about. Look at your artwork, now what do you see? How can you change it? What can it be?”

Julianne Ross Allcorn • To understand being patient is an artist’s skill that has to be taught and to respect your tools and your work. If the art work is not coming together then put it aside, work in another medium on another idea and let the frustration go. When they come back to their work…. it is with a different zest, understanding and often a joy with fresh light.

Mary Lynne Bonforte • I tell a frustrated student, who wants to give up and thinks a mistake has been made, that it is a golden opportunity to continue in a different direction. Discussion with the student individually or having a group critique that emphasizes the positive with all student work can help.


child drawing

photo credit: plindberg

Nathan Bubes • I have projects that deal with quotes…one that stays in my class is “lose your fear of being wrong”. With this in mind I tell students another quote which is “nothing is learned without struggle”. If you’re frustrated you’re learning…if it’s easy you’re learning nothing. Art plays off our emotions and pushes us to greater achievements.

Rina Vinetz from the awesome blog K-6 Art • Make sure you select a project that is developmentally appropriate. Art teachers don’t expect third graders to have artwork that looks like 6th grade work. Provide practice time to explore materials and techniques. Encourage creativity when correcting ‘mistakes’. Remind them the best and most famous artists took their time. FYI I find the kids who get the most frustrated are perfectionists.

Becky Thornton • I remind students of their progress and how far they have progressed in their art. Sometimes we are able to take a “happy accident” (Mom spilled coffee on a portrait) and turn it into an expression in Espresso!

Michele Morris (• In my art room I always remind students that art is a challenge because not only am I teaching to an “unknown” but when artists (how I refer to my students) create art they are creating to an unknown. I also remind students that art is like science class- we are always experimenting. Sometimes these experiments don’t turn out how we want them to- BUT we have LEARNED something. Sometimes with art you learn what NOT to do next time- that is part of the learning process.

Barbara Bourque • The first thing I do is reassure the student that Art is not an exact science, that if it were it would be, well, science!! I explain that one of the wonderful aspects of art is that an artist perceived error can be used to show individuality. It is also the opportunity to reach beyond the original plan and take their project to a different level/direction. I assure them that all artists have had to do this many times.


What struck me as I read through these answers is the common theme: That frustration is something to embrace and appreciate. If you slow down, and find a way to work through the frustration, you will emerge smarter and more skilled. Isn’t there a life lesson in there somewhere?



  1. 03/11/2013 / 9:49 pm

    I LOVE this series! This is good stuff! And parents can keep it in mind too for artists at work at home!

    • 03/12/2013 / 8:12 pm

      Well, thanks. I’m really looking forward to doing more of these!

  2. 03/11/2013 / 10:51 pm

    Great topic and wonderful responses! Pinned 🙂

    • 03/12/2013 / 8:14 pm

      Thanks for the pin- It was really exciting to read all of the heartfelt responses from these teachers. They have some great ideas!

  3. 03/11/2013 / 11:06 pm

    Hi Jeanette – Wow. Thanks so much for sharing these insights on dealing with frustration. I will definitely try out some of the other teachers’ strategies. I especially like Stacey Jackson’s poem 🙂 Thanks also for the shout out!

    • 03/12/2013 / 8:15 pm

      Hi Rina- Thank you! I just love your blog, and I’m thrilled you took the time to answer my question. That is a pretty great poem, isn’t it?

  4. 03/13/2013 / 1:24 am

    Great question! I loved the responses. It is a hard perception for kids to overcome and as an art teacher we have to help them to perceive literally in the sense of art, but also on a humanistic level. Some of the greatest inventions and discoveries are here because of a ‘mistake’ 🙂

  5. 03/13/2013 / 8:27 pm

    Wow, what a great idea for a series and great first post! Love the question and the answers! I need to take notes so I know what to do next time me or my kids is frustrated! This series would make a great book!

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